A story in the Bangkok Post tonight declares that this year’s flood in the nation’s capital city is the worst flood in the history of that city. Remember that Bangkok was just established as the capital of Thailand about 200 years ago. Before this year’s flood of the capital city, the previous “Greatest Flood” occurred in 1942. There is actually video footage of that flood on YouTube that you can Google. You can see Victory Monument, Lumphini Park, Hua Lamphong Railway Station and the Grand Palace, among other sites. The story in the Bangkok Post says that there is no record of a greater flood in Bangkok before or since – until now. In the photo above, you can see cars parked on the overpass in an attempt to keep them out of the flood waters. Thousands have fled the city and Chiangmai has been a beneficiary of this disaster. Many refugees who can afford to do so have come to Chiangmai to wait out the flood.
As you can see from the map to the right, the plan was to keep the flood waters out of the central business district of Bangkok. Flood waters flowing down from the rivers to the north into the Chao Phraya River were to flow around the central part of Bangkok, following canals and natural waterways, and continue on to the Gulf of Thailand (red arrows on the map). The brown and red lines show the flood barriers and flood gates that have been built to protect the inner city. (What has actually happened can be seen in a thumbnail map below.)
Unfortunately, the plan has not worked quite as predicted and large sections of the city inside the flood barriers are now under water. Those in the areas outside the flood barriers where the flood waters have been diverted are suffering tremendously as water levels have been higher than predicted. There are serious shortages of food and potable water. The entire city of Bangkok has now been told to prepare for the worst – and for some who believed they would be protected, those warnings came too late. Flood waters came too fast. Some places that were designated as shelters for flood victims have also been flooded and those victims have been moved to other shelters. The government announced a four-day holiday to allow people time to deal with the problem, but now that the ‘holiday’ is over, many people are unable to get to work. Major roadways are closed due to flood waters. Facebook and Twitter are both alive with criticism of the government and its handling of the situation. The Prime Minister has been seen close to tears and this situation is far from over. Everyone agrees that it will take time for all this water to make its way to the sea.
This map to the right is an update of an earlier one to illustrate how the flooding has moved south. Chiangmai is no longer listed as ‘under restoration’ even though the concrete flood barriers have only been removed in the last two days. Many people (like my next door neighbor) still have sandbags outside their gate (see thumbnail photo below). The clean-up continues and people are just learning how much they lost in the flood. In our adopted Thai family, Oi’s husband is an architect. All of his diplomas and certificates were in a portfolio that was somehow missed when they moved his office furniture to higher ground. The documents are drying out now, but don’t look anything like they did when they were new. We only had flood waters for three or four days. I cannot imagine trying to live like that for weeks or months as some folks south of us are doing. And almost all the ‘human interest’ stories we hear are ‘human tragedies’ – like the story of the desperately ill elderly man who was taken to the hospital in Bangkok by total strangers, abandoning all his possessions to the flood waters because he was too ill to move them and no one could find any relatives. Please continue to pray for Thailand.